One-day nature-based escapes from Taree, NSW

The riverside town of Taree may have been bypassed by the Pacific Highway back in 1997 but that hasn’t stopped it from attracting a stream of nature-loving visitors. With the Manning River at its core (the only double delta river system in the Southern Hemisphere) Taree is a playground for those who revel in the great outdoors. Here are five nature-based escapes within easy reach.

1. Ellenborough Falls

Whether you choose to drive or chopper in with a private tour company like Affinity Helicopters, Ellenborough Falls in the Manning Valley region should be on your Taree to-do-list. The falls are an hour’s drive from the city on the Bulga Plateau at Elands, and while the roads are unsealed they can be accessed by either 2wd or 4wd vehicles. The incredible 200-metre-drop waterfall is the highest in the state. There are a number of different vantage points from which to admire the falls and surrounding landscape, some of which involve stairs. 

Ellenborough falls (2nd highest waterfalls in the southern hemisphere) in Taree, Australia.
Ellenborough Falls. Image – Bigstock

2. Cattai Wetlands

One of the Manning Valley’s unsung gems, Cattai Wetlands is a sanctuary for almost 200 bird species and a variety of native animals. Situated just 20 minutes’ drive north of Taree and accessible from the Pacific Highway, what was once farmland was acquired by the local council to ‘restore the natural beauty and ecological value of the wetlands’. The area now boasts three sublime walking tracks. Choose to do the short two-kilometre stroll, the coastal blackbutt forest walk, or the Spring Hill Road lookout hike for vistas of Cape Hawke, Crowdy Head and the Three Brothers Mountains. Markers to educate visitors are placed at various points along the way and access to the wetlands is free.

Cattai Wetlands. Image – Heather Healy

3. Potoroo Falls via Wingham Brush

Just nine kilometres north-west of Taree sits a nature reserve called Wingham Brush. A stop here is a warm-up for a full day of outdoor activities, with an array of waterfalls and swimming holes to choose from. Do an easy rainforest walk and some bird-spotting as the flying fox colony goes about its business in the brush overhead. After a coffee at Bent on Food, which takes pride of place on the main street of Wingham, settle in for the hour-long car journey north-west to Tapin Tops National Park. Here you can hike, paddle and picnic. The Potoroo Falls walk takes you one kilometre upstream past the state’s largest recorded watergum to a refreshing swimming hole. Take note, rock-hopping is required so be sure to bring suitable footwear.

Potoroo Falls. Image – Ben Cole

4. Kiwarrak State Forest

Hand cut trails through the Kiwarrak State Forest make for a great day out on a bike. Whether you’re just a social rider or a more serious biker, the Kiwarrak Mountain Bike Park is the spot for you. Primarily cross-country, the web of trails that dip and weave through the eucalypt forest are considered some of the best on the east coast. All up there are 112 mountain bike trails, 98 eBike trails, and 73 running and hiking trails. Entry is via Old Bar Road. Afterwards, head into the beachside village of Old Bar (or nearby Wallabi Point) and cool off in the surf.

5. Barrington Tops National Park

Whether you’re up for a leisurely day walk or drive, a fishing trip, or even an overnight camping adventure, Barrington Tops National Park west of Taree has you sorted. Make use of the plentiful picnic and barbecue facilities, admire the breathtaking views from a variety of lookouts, and lose yourself (figuratively speaking!) in a lush landscape that’s part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area. The journey from Taree takes just under two hours (116 kilometres) via The Bucketts Way and Gloucester Tops Road. It’s well worth the drive.

Man enjoying a walk to Thunderbolts Lookout in Barrington Tops National Park.
Explore Barrington Tops National Park. Image – Don Fuchs & Destination NSW

Cover image: Manning River. Image courtesy of Destination NSW

About the writer

Melinda Healy is an Australian-made journalist who enjoys roaming the globe and writing about it. She’s just returned to Australia after four years working in the media in Abu Dhabi where she was most recently section editor of a weekly lifestyle supplement. Mel is a destination expert for Telegraph Travel and Culture Trip and has had bylines in The Times, The Independent, Etihad Airways’ Atlas online, Ultratravel Middle East, Conde Nast Traveller Middle East and The Upsider.

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